Evangelical women in Australia get in a tangle over hair length
Last weekend in Australia a bunch of evangelical women – several thousand actually – flocked to an evangelical Christian conference in Sydney, devoted to what it means to be “a godly woman”.
I have no idea what they expected to be told, but when Carmelina Read, above, Dean of Women at the Presbyterian Christ College in Sydney, get onto the subject of God wanting women to wear their hair long discontent erupted and a number walked out.
According to this report, during a talk about the meaning of Bible verses on male headship – where men are leaders in the home and the church – an image of newly-shorn actress Kristen Stewart, above, flashed onto an overhead screen.
Was this platinum blonde’s buzz cut, asked Read, appropriate for a woman? Was it feminine and submissive, or did it signal independence and rebellion?
It might be more in line with God’s good design to have long hair because it was a visible sign of the difference between men and women in which God delighted.
But what disturbed some attendees even more — roughly 3,000 Anglican, Presbyterian and Baptist women were there, with an estimated 1,600 watching by livestream — was that another contentious issue had surfaced at the Sydney Convention Centre: that women should also consider themselves “helpers” of men in the workplace.
One conference speaker said if a woman became a CEO:
She should perform her role in a way that was helpful to men.
And a video was shown in which a female minister said:
What makes her happy is when she is able to make her male colleagues ‘shine’.
This all boils down to some cockamamie doctrine called “headship”. The doctrine, in short, dictates that men are to be the heads of women in the church as well as in marriage. Verses discussed in 1 Corinthians 11 say:
… the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonours his head. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonours her head — it is the same as having her head shaved. For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.
The idea of headship has long divided Protestants in Australia, with the conservative pockets — where women are not allowed to be priests, such as the Sydney Anglican diocese, and Presbyterian church — adhering to it most vigorously.
Read reportedly said her experience showed her that it is not possible to be Christian and a feminist. Feminism would “trick me into thinking that God’s design isn’t good,” she said, leading her to sinfully think:
I want headship; I want control. More and more the world thinks in a gender-neutral way that we’re people and not men and women. But God delights in the beauty of our gender. We want to live in a way that celebrates that God has made us women. That shows we delight in the way that Jesus delights in submitting to his father. No longer a Christian feminist but a Christian woman.
Registered nurse Louisa Macourt, from the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students in Sydney, wrote afterwards that Ms Read’s remarks were:
But I keep coming back to the same place — that God has gifted both men and women equally and he wants all of us to use our gifts to glorify him and the whole church.
One commenter, Jen Wright, said Read’s remarks had been taken out of context.
She did not say that short hair is wrong, but used it as an example of some ways some people choose to feel empowered by feeling more masculine. It is not about an act, but an attitude.
[Read] was on about celebrating us as women. All the speakers and presenters humbly and thoroughly worked through difficult issues and passages to present the conference on Saturday and I thank God for their preparation, humility and wisdom.